Meet Dr Susmita Chatterjee, Senior Health Economist, The George Institute, India

Dr Susmita Chatterjee’s interest and expertise are in costing of health services, health financing, and economic evaluations.

Q. Tell us a .bit about your professional background?

I am a PhD in Agricultural Economics. Immediately after submitting my PhD thesis, I was referred to join in a Health Economics project in collaboration with the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. After specializing in Monetary Economics during Masters, and doing PhD in Agricultural Economics, I was hesitant in taking up the position to work on a Health Economics project. However, working in this multi country project looking at cost-effectiveness of typhoid fever and cholera vaccine in Indian context was the turning point in my career. I found this extremely interesting, learnt a lot during my four years work experience and clearly felt the need of such work in our country. So, I decided to carry on with Health Economics work.

In order to equip myself better, I went to Mahidol University in Thailand under Asia Fellows Awards and got hands on experience of conducting both provider and patient costing studies. I chose Thailand because for many years it is using health economics evidence for their policy decisions. I also took formal training on provider costing in Hanoi Medical School in Vietnam. Further hands on training happened at the University of California, San Francisco under the Indo-US Public Health Fellowship.

Before joining TGI, my major work involved leading the largest immunization delivery costing study conducted in India till date and doing the costing and financing of the comprehensive multi-year plan for India’s universal immunization programme, 2013-17 and 2018-2022.   

Q. What is your role in TGI?

I work as Senior Health Economist and I am currently leading three health economics projects, two projects on Tuberculosis looking both at provider and patient cost and the other on cost of improving immunization coverage through Intensified Mission Indradhanush Programme in India.

Apart from my research at TGI, I am a lead faculty of “Teaching Vaccine Economics Everywhere” course, an initiative by Johns Hopkins University and Indian Institute of Health Management Research.

Q. What inspires you in the work you do and why?

As mentioned earlier, while working on my first health economics project I clearly felt the need of such evidence in Indian context. From then I decided to generate evidence for policy decisions as much as I can through my research.

Q. What does a normal day look like at work for you now? Has your personal and/or work life changed at all due to COVID-19?

Same as before. COVID-19 did not make any impact on my personal and work life.

Q. Has COVID-19 affected any of your work projects/programs? If so, how have you or your project adapted to the situation?

Yes, it has. We were supposed to conduct follow-up interviews for the health economics projects in two states which were postponed for couple of months. Till date the situation is not favourable to start face to face interviews, we decided to conduct telephone interviews, and this is ongoing in both states.

Q. What are some examples of your latest research or projects?

My latest research projects with TGI are:

  1. Cost and efficiency of the intensified Mission Indradhanush programme
  2. Economic Burden of Tuberculosis in India
  3. The cost of providing tuberculosis services in India from a health systems’ perspective

Q. What other hats do you wear?

I wear a couple of more hats which includes DBT/Wellcome Trust Clinical and Public Health Intermediate Fellow, Adjoint Senior Lecturer at the University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia and a Professor at Prasanna School of Public Health, Manipal Academy of Higher Education (MAHE).